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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 October 2005, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
New avian flu death in Thailand
Spraying disinfectant near giant bird statue in Thai bird reserve - 18/10/05
Thailand was one of the first countries to suffer an outbreak
A villager has become the 13th person to die of bird flu in Thailand while his son is being treated for flu-like symptoms, the prime minister said.

It is thought to be the first Thai bird flu death in a year and Thaksin Shinawatra assured citizens all was being done to contain the virus.

The victim had slaughtered and cooked a neighbour's dead chickens.

European Union health ministers are meeting to discuss the threat of bird flu further spreading from the east.

They will have two days of talks in London after cases of the lethal H5N1 strain of the virus were found in birds in Turkey and Romania.

Experts fear that if it combines with human flu or mutates, it could become highly contagious and lead to a deadly pandemic.

Flu season

Mr Thaksin said the latest Thai victim was a 48-year-old man from Kanchanaburi province west of Bangkok.

Principally an avian disease, first seen in humans in Hong Kong in 1997
Almost all human cases thought to be contracted from birds
Possible cases of human-to-human transmission in Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam, but none confirmed

"The guy was infected with bird flu because he took a sick chicken, slaughtered it and then ate it," he said.

The man had initially tested negative, but Mr Thaksin said new tests confirmed that the man had bird flu while his seven-year-old son was being treated in hospital.

Concern is mounting that the virus is making a major reappearance in Asia as the continent heads towards its winter, when the virus appears to thrive.

In other developments:

  • Taiwan confirms it intercepted a ship carrying a container of H5N1-infected poultry from China

  • China says it has culled 91,000 birds in an area around the site of an outbreak of the killer virus in Inner Mongolia.

  • Vietnam, the worst-hit country in terms of human deaths, this week saw its first outbreak in poultry since June

  • The European Union bans the import of pet birds and feathers from most of Russia.

At least 60 people in Asia have died after contracting the virus from birds infected by H5N1, but scientists say the disease is so far not able to spread easily between humans.

Westward spread

In Europe, fresh outbreaks were reported in Romania and Russia on Wednesday.

Tests at a UK laboratory confirmed on Wednesday that the lethal strain of the bird flu virus had struck at the Romanian village of Maliuc.

Preliminary tests suggest bird flu has also arrived in European Russia, west of the Ural mountains, having been found in Asian Siberia already.

Russian laboratories said H5N1 had been detected in birds in Tula, about 220km (137 miles) south of Moscow.

However, preliminary tests on a suspected case from Greece have proved negative, the European Commission has announced.

Germany has ordered its farmers to keep poultry indoors as a precaution.

Hungary says it has developed a new vaccine that appears to protect humans and animals against the virus.

The EU is holding a two-day exercise to test European countries' readiness to deal with a major health crisis.

It said the exercise had been planned 18 months ago, long before the current outbreak of bird flu.

The H5N1 strain remained largely in South-East Asia until this summer, when Russia and Kazakhstan both reported outbreaks
Scientists fear it may be carried by migrating birds to Europe and Africa but say it is hard to prove a direct link with bird migration

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